#16 – Have Tea at the Ritz
Tea at The Ritz; so quintessentially English. One of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences, which I just had to have on my 40 before 40 list. A treat, an indulgence, something completely frivolous yet an enchanting experience nevertheless. At 3.30pm on 20th February, I enjoyed Afternoon Tea in The Palm Court at The Ritz London, accompanied by my parents. (I knew that my Mum, who loves tea, would enjoy it so my sister and I bought her a gift voucher for her birthday last year.) Afternoon Tea is so popular it’s served five times a day: 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm. I booked well in advance to have the 3.30pm ‘proper’ time slot that I wanted. Afternoon Tea at 11.30am just wouldn’t have been cricket.
The Ritz was the brainchild of César Ritz (after he was infamously dismissed by The Savoy) and opened in 1906. It was built in French chateau style architecture, and the interiors are Louis XVI. The hotel is now Grade II listed. Stepping inside was indeed like stepping back in time. From the initial greeting by the doorman, the staff who were everywhere on hand to attend to any need you may have to the numerous waiters serving the teas, nothing was too much trouble. The gloriously over-the-top furnishings and decoration, all gold leaf and flounces, were a world away from the austere bleakness and muted grays and browns of the modern and minimalist taste in hotel decoration.
We enjoyed champagne cocktails in the bar before our tea. Another incredible indulgence, but as Dad said we were only going to do it once. Adding to the elegant atmosphere was the pianist, playing classic tunes and some more modern songs. I was particularly pleased to hear “Puttin’ on the Ritz” drifting across the bar.
When it was time for tea, we were ushered to our place in the stunning Palm Court and seated at an impressively dressed table incorporating Ritz monogrammed linen, fine china and a full silver tea service. Each of us even had our own silver tea strainer to use.
I chose the Ritz Royal English tea from the selection of 17 different teas on offer, and then we enjoyed a pleasant hour or so tucking in to the delicate delights on offer. The menu was:
Ham, Grain Mustard Mayonnaise on White Bread
Cheddar Cheese, Chutney on Onion Bread
Cucumber, Cream Cheese, Dill, Chives, on Caraway Seed Bread
Chicken Breast, Horseradish Cream on White Bread
Scottish Smoked Salmon, Lemon Butter on Rye Bread
Egg Mayonnaise, Chopped Shallots, Watercress on White Bread
Freshly Baked Raisin and Plain Scones with Cornish Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve
Assortment of British Afternoon Tea Pastries and Cakes:
Rhubarb and Ginger Cake, Chocolate Layer Cake, Vanilla Slice, Lemon Macarons and (my personal favourite) Lemon Drizzle Cake
Our plates were replenished and fresh tea was brought as well. As well as being super indulgent, everything was (as you would expect) very tasty. My favourites were the Egg Mayonnaise sandwiches (so much flavour) and the Chicken sandwiches; which surprised me as I don’t normally like horseradish but here it was delicate enough to improve the taste without being overpowering. The scones were also fabulous and I regretted that I could only manage two and a half. They were ‘kept at the correct temperature’ and brought out at the appropriate point during proceedings. The Lemon Drizzle cake was served from a trolley, and came topped with candied peel and gold leaf.
It was a lovely way to while away an afternoon, chatting and being made to feel indulged and looked after. We all laughingly had to admit that at some point we’d obviously forgotten to use our tea strainers as each of us had loose tea leaves floating around in the bottom of our cups. Clearly not as posh as we ought to be!
Eventually it was time to leave, feeling thoroughly full. It was with a touch of regret that we left the quiet, refined world of the Ritz behind and rejoined the impersonal hustle and bustle of the London streets. Mum thoroughly enjoyed herself and remarked that she’ll remember it until the day she dies. I was pleased to have been able to share the day and add another precious memory to my collection.